Issues Surrounding the Use of Animals in Scientific Research

Animals such as mice, rats, rabbits, monkeys and primates are used in biomedical research to test the efficacy and toxicity of novel drugs and vaccines prior to their general usage in humans and animals for therapeutic purposes. The use of animals to do research whose results will in turn be extrapolated to humans is hinged on many factors. For example, human beings and animals share similar physiology and biochemistry in terms of the makeup of their body systems. In addition, the metabolic activities of animals are to some extent akin to those of humans who also possess eukaryotic cells like the animals. In the long run, these animals used for biomedical and/or medical research are usually scarified or killed during the course of the research or at the end of the research. These factors are some of the issues that surround the use of animals for research, and the global call for the discontinuance of the use of animals in research. 

However, animal-based research cannot be extrapolated to humans because of species differences and is therefore misleading and counterproductive. Testing a drug or chemical on an animal provides no evidence that it is safe for humans because animals do not react in the same way to drugs as animals do. There is also a wide variety of differences in the metabolic activities (e.g. absorption and distribution of substances such as drugs) that occur in animals when compared to humans. The mechanisms of disease development and spread in animal population can also not be fully extrapolated to that in humans. Nevertheless, pharmaceutical companies and other drug research institution still claim that novel drugs must be tested on animals in order to ensure their efficacy and safety before they are given to human populations for which they were actually meant for. The scientific community believes that the use of animals in biomedical research leads to their extinction, and as such, an alternative scientific technique should be developed for techniques that normally require animals.

The use of laboratory animals in biomedical/scientific research (vivisection) has been a subject of controversy owing to much opposition to its usage. Medical discoveries and innovations no doubt usually begin with clinical observations that eventually make use of laboratory animals which mimic and explain internal conditions of humans. Yet, the use of laboratory animals for biomedical/scientific research has been greatly criticized even till date. It should also be noted that there are some human diseases that do not naturally occur in animals, and thus such pathologies are difficult to study using animal models. So much has been learnt in the medical profession through the use of animals to test new drugs and other chemicals.

Also, new knowledge on how the physiology and biochemistry of the human body works has also been learnt through the usage of animals for medical research. The physiology and biochemistry of the human body relates very much to that of animals. For these reasons, animals have helped in the preclinical testing of most drugs and other biomedical innovations meant for animal and human usage. Many believe that the use of animals for scientific research leads to their extinction. And there is some element of truth to this since the animals used for research are usually sacrificed or killed at the end of the research as aforesaid.

To many, animals should not be used for biomedical research because of their religious and cultural values. Others believe that the animals go through pains in their usage and that their consent is not always sought (as is the case in humans) before being used for scientific research. Antivivisectionists also believe that most animals used for scientific research (e.g. cats, rabbits and other animals) are kept as pets and as such no experiments should be performed on them because it also leads to their death. Vivisection is the use of animals for biomedical or medical research.

Antivivisectionists those opposed to the use of animals for biomedical research. They believe that the use of animals for scientific research should be undertaken with caution while ensuring less pain on the animals. It is also believed by the medical research community that ethical guideline should be strengthened in medical/academic institutions and always sought before using animals for scientific research. Animals meant for scientific research should be given optimum veterinary care pre- and post-experimentation. They should be handled with care while ensuring that their sufferings and pain are minimized as much as possible in the course of the research.

Vivisectionists believe that the care of animals is everyone’s business. However, since consent can never be given when it comes to animals unlike humans, animals should be given all humane and ethical treatment before their usage. Their alternatives for biomedical research should be developed. Nevertheless, the use of animals for scientific research and the extrapolation of results from these animals to humans are still being used. Until more reliable hi-tech in vitro techniques (e.g. genetically modified mice and transgenic animals) are developed, animals will still be used for biomedical research. In addition, the use of animals has helped in the advancement of biomedical/scientific research, and this has impacted positively on the health benefits of both animals and humans.


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